Language Arts, Grammar, Social Studies
Grade 5- 8
Students learn about meditation, a practice of Zen Buddhism.
Students of Zen Buddhism practice meditation in order to increase their awareness and purify their minds. They hope to undo their opinions and preferences and reach a state of satori, or illumination. With this clarity, they can live calmly and compassionately in the world.
Introduce the topic of meditation to students with the following How to Meditate passage.
How to Meditate
You have probably heard the word "meditation" many times in your life. You may have seen pictures of people sitting in meditation with crossed legs and eyes closed. You may even know someone who meditates. But what exactly is meditation? What is its purpose? In all traditions of Buddhism, followers meditate in order to still their minds, to let go of the running thoughts inside their brains and purify it of greed, hatred, and ignorance. If you stop to notice, thoughts go on from the moment of waking until sleep. They even appear in dreams. For Buddhists, meditation is a means of finding what lies beyond these thoughts. Of course, this takes practice.
There are many forms of meditation. Usually, Buddhists sit still, spine straight and eyes closed. By focusing on their breath, they become more present, more aware of themselves. Although the stream of thoughts continues, the student simply watches them go by like clouds in the sky. Thus, he or she begins to be free of the grip of thinking.
Zen Buddhists have some unusual entries to meditation practices. One such entry is called a koan, or a riddle. The master asks a puzzling question which the student must answer correctly--although it may take days to comprehend! Thus, the koan provides the means for meditation.
Tibetan Buddhists like to focus on mandalas during meditation. Mandalas are elaborate designs rich with color and detail. They are often circular, containing either portraits of various gods or intricate patterns. After meditating on the mandala, the student will close his or her eyes and try to visualize the picture. Thus, the mind is disciplined while the heart merges with the spirit of the mandala.
Distribute the Mandalas activity sheet to students . Have them color the mandalas provided and then create their own.
Have students try sitting quietly five minutes a day. Suggest that they just sit and listen to the sounds around them, even the sound of their breathing. After a few days, try ten minutes. Have them keep journals of their quiet time experiences.